In addition to developing more domestic energy sources, I support efforts to improve energy conservation and efficiency. Specifically, I am working with my colleagues to increase federal investment of plug-in electric hybrid technology for vehicles. I am also supportive of programs, such as the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), to assist homeowners in lowering their electric bills by modifying their homes to become more energy efficient. Further, I continue to support legislation that would require annual increases in the percentages of electric energy generated from renewable resources to be at least 20 percent of the total electricity sold by 2020.
I have also been a vocal supporter in Congress for initiatives that would improve our nation’s environment. Because air pollution is a significant cause of respiratory ailments and environmental degradation, I have urged the Environmental Protection Agency to establish strict standards to limit mercury emissions, which have been linked to neurological disorders. Furthermore, I am proud to have supported the Energy Independence Act, which was signed into law in December 2007. For the first time since 1975, language was included in this bill to increase fuel efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for new cars and trucks. This law also included a requirement for our nation to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent by 2030.
Clean water is particularly important to Rhode Islanders because of our special relationship with the Narragansett Bay and the ocean, and I support increasing funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Since people must have access to clean drinking water, I voted against the Administration’s efforts to roll back the arsenic standard for drinking water and opposed efforts in Congress to provide liability exemptions for MTBE, a gasoline additive that has contaminated groundwater in communities such as Pascoag.
We must also protect our public lands for future generations. Consequently, I have strenuously fought the Administration’s efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration. I am also a cosponsor of legislation that would implement the roadless forest initiative as established by the Clinton Administration.
Our nation’s environmental laws are the product of decades of bipartisan cooperation and are credited with saving lives, protecting endangered species, and preserving our lands for future generations. However, the Bush Administration has attempted to roll back these protections, forcing environmental advocates to play defense and prevent existing protections from being weakened. I am proud of the achievements of a Democratic Congress during the past two years, but I believe we must go further in developing a national energy policy that puts the needs of families ahead of big oil profits and continuing the protection of our ecosystem from the dangerous effects of climate change.
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